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Sun 26 May 2013 05:24 PM

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Saudi Princess says men are too afraid to allow women's rights

Princess Ameerah challenges SABIC CEO in front of World Economic Forum to explain poor employment of women

Saudi Princess says men are too afraid to allow women's rights
Princess Ameerah

The advancement of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia is being held back because of fear among conservative men, Saudi Arabia’s Princess Ameerah al-Taweel has said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Jordan.

Princess Ameerah, who is married to high profile Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, said it was difficult to change the mindset of people within Saudi Arabia, which has one of the worst levels of female participation in society in the world.

“The most daunting challenge is not only the legislation but it is the concept, the mentality [of Saudis] because we know our society is very conservative and is very private and it’s very difficult to change concepts in Saudi Arabia to support women in the work place or to have a larger contribution [in society],” Princess Ameerah said.

“Many conservative men say ‘we don’t want women to work, we want her to maintain her dignity’. That’s not true [that] she’s not maintaining her dignity while working.

“So I think the main reason is fear from women and not for women, because they are afraid of women. We know what women are stronger than men in our society because they’re a minority and the minority usually wants to prove itself.”

While a member of the audience during a separate WEF session on the Arab employment crisis, Princess Ameerah challenged Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) CEO Mohammed Al Mady to explain why his company had not “opened the door” to Saudi women.

Al Mady defended the company by saying it had employed 50 women, but the audience laughed when it was revealed SABIC had 20,000 employees.

“We have been slow for sure,” Al Mady conceded.

“That was not really by design that we want to be against women or anything, but we want to get the best practice done in Saudi Arabia because there are many mistakes that have happened and it really gives bad names for the employees and the employers.

“Now we’re in a position to get the best practices and do it in our company and you will see a big change.”

The government has announced several programs to help women enter the workforce for the first time in recent years and last year more than 160,000 Saudi women were employed – a record.

However, Princess Ameerah said 85 percent of those unemployed were female.

She said many women were unaware of the wide opportunities available to them. A significant percentage of female graduates who intended to enter the workforce wanted to be in the education sector, while only a handful sought careers in information technology and the finance sector.

“There is a concept that men should work and be the breadwinners and women should stay at home and care for the children. If you want to demand real equality then women must contribute to build the society equally with men, if they want real equality just like the societies in the West.

“So women should not only care for their homes and their children but they should also contribute to their societies and their countries. This is important for us; such concepts should change.”

Princess Ameerah said even she had been criticised for her role in society by people she was close to and worked with.

She said there needed to be more Arab women’s networks where they could support each other.

“If you don’t have a circle of people who are living through this with you, if you do not believe in what you are doing you will not make it, you will not continue working and you will not continuing facing those criticisms,” she said.

“Unfortunately we don’t celebrate great success stories in the region. We have amazing women who have accomplished many things in the public sector [and] in the private sector … [and] those are the role models for women talking about breaking the glass ceiling.

“As far as I’m concerned not every woman should work but every woman who wants to work should be able to work.”

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Dubai 7 years ago

Well said!

jay 7 years ago

well done Princess Amerah and a great challenge by a high profile woman
lets do it from inside the country now so the people see its not just words from afar

Mark Z 7 years ago

Well spoken Princess, and this is the truth.

abdul hafeez Sheikh 7 years ago

Islam determines the right of Women and we should follow Quran and and life of our prophet (PBHU) rather talking about western freedom of women .KSA govt follows the same principles and we need to have confidence on KSA govt rather then talking about freedom in western way.

Abdulsattar 7 years ago

"not every woman should work but every woman who wants to work should be able to work" this is a balanced approach that need to be practised by everyone, everywhere.

Mukesh Goswami 7 years ago

The wife of the Prophet, PBUH, was a business person and I am quoting this just to satisfy few persons who want everything in life to be linked to the Great Prophet, PBUH.. There is nothing to prove that a working woman cannot be a good housewife.. What do we mean " freedom in western way". such statements are strong mindsets.. Is working, driving, singing, dancing - all western, all bad ?? Are women not working as maids in all parts of world ?? Are they bad or their working is bad ?? Let us not paint everything in same brush.. Have confidence, trust and faith in your wife, sisters and daughters.. Do not block their growth.. Encourage them to pursue their choice and believe me they will not choose wrong path.. they are as mature and sensible as you think you are..

KSA 7 years ago

@Abdul Hafeez, why are you scared of women getting freedom, I think you are scared that your wife will over come you or you don't have the confidence in yr self. Western culture has its own advantages & disadvantages. Saudi women should be given freedom. why only Saudi men should have all the joy & not women. Saudi men are dumb headed guys with few exceptions, may be the women will outcome them.

All the very best to this country which has so much of money but don't know how to utilize them like how Dubai does. three cheers to Shaikh Mohammed

Calvin 7 years ago

What about the rest of the countries in Asia and Africa? Dont they also follow similar principles? What about Pakistan?

Bassam 7 years ago

Your entire mind would fit through a tiny keyhole, it's that narrow. Hopefully you live in Pakistan and keep your narrow views there. I'm surprised that you are somehow on the "evil" Western internet at all...

Ulevpri 7 years ago

I am very happy seeing a lady saying this loud out. Not giving a driving license is the best example that men simply want to have their wifes/mothers/sister etc. under control. You are scared that they do wrong? How comes? Only the ones doing wrong themselves thinking wrong and the behviour of Saudi men outside of KSA speeks for itself.